Feb 26, 2024 - Science

Owl's death sparks calls to address bird strikes

 Flaco, a Eurasian eagle owl that escaped from the Central Park Zoo, continues to roost and hunt in Central Park, February 15, 2023 in New York City, New York

Flaco, a Eurasian eagle owl that escaped from New York City's Central Park Zoo in Central Park last year. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

The death of Flaco, a Eurasian eagle-owl that captivated New Yorkers after escaping from a zoo last year, has sparked calls to combat bird strikes

The big picture: Former Central Park Zoo resident Flaco is among an estimated one billion birds that die in the U.S. every year from skyscraper and building collisions.

  • The number of such deaths each year can range from 621 million to 2 billion, according to a study published this month in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology.
  • The researchers note that 50% of bird–window collisions don't leave any evidence of a strike and as many as 70% of "stunned victims" likely succumb from a collision.

State of play: In the wake of Flaco's death, New York lawmakers renewed a push for legislation protecting birds.

  • The "Bird Safe Building Act," which has been renamed "FLACO Act," would require all new or altered state buildings to use designs and materials that reduce such collisions.
  • The measure introduced last year would have to pass through the state Senate before garnering the signature of the governor to become law.

Between the lines: Buildings are particularly dangerous for migratory birds, as most of them fly by night and are often attracted to artificial light, like office buildings that leave the lights on.

  • Cities across the U.S. have launched campaigns to keep lights low during migratory seasons to reduce bird deaths.
  • Buildings with many windows are also dangerous as those at less than 100 feet from the ground may reflect vegetation, which makes birds think they're flying toward a tree or the sky, the New York Times reports.

Flashback: Flaco went missing from the Central Park Zoo after his exhibit was vandalized in February last year, per the Wildlife Conservation Society.

  • The owl was frequently spotted across Manhattan and zoo staff monitored him throughout the year.

What they're saying: "The vandal who damaged Flaco's exhibit jeopardized the safety of the bird and is ultimately responsible for his death," Central Park Zoo said in a statement Saturday.

  • "We are still hopeful that the NYPD, which is investigating the vandalism, will ultimately make an arrest."

Go deeper: Better buildings for the birds

Go deeper